Jacques Cleghorn – AKA SilverShadow
Jacques, please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Jacques Cleghorn, better know as Silver_Shadow, on some 3D modeling forums. I work and live in Cape Town, South Africa. I have been working with Google SketchUp for almost 8 years now.
Can you tell us a bit about the kind of work you do?
I am doing full time 3D design work for a firm called MLB Architects. I am running the 3D department side of the office and we do mostly medium to large scale developments. We also do a considerable amount of urban design projects. The way this firm uses SketchUp is purely for design purposes, to aid them in what has been drawn in 2D basically.
Why the choice of SketchUp as your primary modeling application?
The previous packages we were using did not allow you to model fast, and in open GL mode. I discovered that SketchUp was the easiest 3D program out there and was extremely easy to learn and get to grips with, without complicated instruction. SketchUp enables you to show something to your clients in a very short time, which is important in a business such as ours.
Do you use any companion software with SketchUp?
Basically I only use SketchUp and my primary render engine is V-Ray but I am starting to learn Modo in my free time. I have touched on and used briefly Fry-render and Maxwell.
What ruby scripts do you rely on and use regularly?
The scripts I use the most is ‘Tube Along Path’, ‘Joint Push Pull’ and ‘Follow Me’. The fancy scripts I use only when I need them depending on the purpose of what I’m modeling. Ther are many new ones appearing all the time and we would certainly be lost without the guys who develop them.
What is your favorite subject of modeling in your profession? In other words, what kinds of projects have your preference and find the most rewarding?
We do the everyday building in our firm, small to big models, from details to marketing. The models that I love to work on are the abnormal and unusual ones and usually the ones you don’t get that much in the industry. That is why I moved to ‘Eye Candy’ models, making abnormal things you don’t do everyday to keep you interested in the modeling and the models. Challenging your skills and pushing the boundaries. I think the most rewarding aspect of all is when it’s finished, when you have put hours and hours into the model and finally see it come to life when you render it. Also when you give your end product to a client and see that smile on his face is a real buzz to.
Of your professional and personal work, could you tell us which piece of work you are most proud of and why?
Of my professional work, I’d say it was a competition we did once. It had all these abnormal elements and it was nothing we had done in this office before. Although we did not get the job, it was surely the most fun project I did at work. On a personal level, I would say the ‘Eye Candy’ series. This was a test for myself and to the program to see how much punishment it can take on a ‘normal system’ before this whole thing fell apart. But as time continued I managed to even create ‘Eye Candy’ 2 and 3. I must say that Eye Candy 3 I’m the proudest of, simply because it was such an impossible task. I had this plastic boat, and had this 50 page manual and looked through it hundreds of times before I even started modeling this thing. Every time I looked at what I was undertaking, I just shook my head and thought this will not work. It’s too much for SketchUp, and it will take forever to make. It took around 8 months to complete in my free time, yes 8 months! As a hobby and to see this thing actually render inside SketchUp was for me a mind blowing hurdle. It was not meant to be real life renders. It was actually just a polygon test, to see how many polygons one can model in SketchUp before it had enough, and amazingly it handled it quite well in this case.
What other software, hardware and techniques do you use?
I am currently learning Modo for personal use, but will always use SketchUp as my main drawing engine. Adding new programs to your arsenal is good, but you have to use them, or else you will get rusty and forget how it works and start struggling. That’s why it’s so hard also to learn something new. You have to use it all the time to better yourself and stay in the game.
If you could give one piece of advice to professionals in our industry what would it be?
Practice a lot. What I know is self taught and through experimenting. For people who are looking for better looking models, more realistic things, I would say, go out, look around and see how these things look in real life. If you look at a kerb, what elements are in a pavement and how does it reflect in your model. You will soon notice that a model is too perfect. Any element you model should actually have defects. Whether you show it in doing it by texture or actually model it, but so many people ask for advice and say they never achieve realism in models. It’s the small things that make it look real and convincing. Spend some time on that, even a little bit more time on the texturing of the model, and it will reward ten fold.
What tips can you give to our readers to improve their renderings?
I use a lot of Photoshop, mucking up textures and making them a little bit imperfect. But overall, I would say your detail on the model compliments your textures. One can always make a badly built model look great using great textures, but one can never make a great model look great with bad textures.
For new 3D artists coming into this industry what advice would you give them?
Do not aim to high. Set a reasonable goal and work towards it. Don’t expect the first day when you start modeling for the first time you will do amazing stuff. Little steps makes for great improvement and saves frustration. Learn the basics of the program first before starting with the more advanced stuff. Practice a lot. Frequenting forums are also a great way to improve yourself and never be shy to ask or show what you have been modeling. Lots of things can be learned by simply just asking. The tips you learn through struggling with your project will help you in the next one, and so you will improve and thus get better.
The term ‘extreme SketchUp’ was once used to describe some of your fun projects can you mention a few of your popular, well known ones and your ideas behind them?
Just before SketchUp 7 released my idea was to show Google that SketchUp is not only a program that can do simple buildings for Google Earth. It can be utilized much better and can do difficult geometry like some high end programs in the market too. The issue was always going to be poly count. If I could convince them by making extreme geometry models, make it look good and present them then maybe they would bring out high poly support in the release of version 7, but it never happened. SketchUp 7 came out before I could release ‘Eye Candy’2. For interest sake, I took on Eye Candy 3 and had a poly count over 5 million.
Have you any more ‘extreme’ challenges that you are working on at the moment and can you give us a hint on what they may be?
At the moment, I am not planning on another ‘Candy’ model soon. There will be similar ‘Candy’ models in the future, but they would just be fun models. I want to use 2010 to learn new things and improve my skills, but “I‘ll be back” (that sounds familiar) one day with something hopefully pleasing for the eye to enjoy..…some more ‘Eye Candy’
See the work of Jacques Cleghorn:
See more images from Jacques Cleghorn:
Some of Jacques Tutorials here at SketchUpArtists: